Last week, Minneapolis’ StarTribune.com ran an article by Emily Cain, a local freelance writer who also, as they put it, “happens to be a boomerang kid and card-carrying millennial [and] sings the virtues of rooming with Mom.”
As the home-owning boomer mother of a once and future boomerang kid, I feel qualified to write the dissenting opinion. But don’t worry: I’ll be nice. In fact, I promise not to once use the words spoiled or entitled.
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Not Who You Think We Are
Ms. Cain, you don’t exactly set yourself up as a sympathetic character. At the top of your piece you write, “I’ve moved out, back home, out, back home and out again more times than I can count. And who knows, before I turn 30, maybe I’ll give it one more shot. After all, I’ve lived in far more questionable places with far less appealing people.”
Far less appealing people. Gee, thanks. I'm sure your mother is pleased with that conceit. Let me return the favor by directing your attention to a recent British study that found that 32 is the age at which we begin to turn into our parents.
Next bone of contention, your first argument defending moving back in with us: “Since roommates are generally putrid slobs unfit to be within arms reach of me — then a clean, quiet, blue-haired baby boomer is just what the doctor ordered.”
For starters, bringing up hair is hitting below the belt, since women from about the age of 6 to their deathbed are concerned about it. While we may have many issues with hair as we age (thinning, whether to go gray), turning into Marge Simpson is not typically among them.
When it comes to your contention that we're “clean and quiet,” I have to question how many middle-aged people you actually know. It’s true some of us are clean and some quiet — and I would give you that some are indeed both — but many, if not most, of our generation are not ready to go quietly into that good night.
You might want to compare notes with Lisa Black, a staff writer for another estimable Midwestern publication, the Chicago Tribune, who has an entirely different take on boomers. Just two summers ago, Black reported on an annual musical event, Summerfest, but found the moms and pops in attendance anything but quiet and sober — er, quiet. She wrote: “Music blared, alcohol flowed and the cloying smell of marijuana drew smiles, recognized like an old friend.
"The women wore short shorts that showed off their tattoos and danced provocatively, shouting 'woo woo!' at the band. Shirtless men stumbled through the aisles, stepping on toes and pumping their fists as they made their way to and from the beer tent.
"The scene resembled a college keg party. But at Milwaukee's Summerfest, the youngsters were the best behaved people in the audience. It was the baby boomers, with their fanny packs, sagging necks and sunburned bald spots, making all the noise.”
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Not to beat the proverbial horse, but I must emphasize that we are not a timorous bunch. Regarding your description of parental homes as being “library-level quiet by 9 p.m.," I would refer you back to Ms. Black’s tirade.
And I’m afraid you’ve double-faulted with this pronouncement: “Retired individuals tend to like to wake up early — we’re talking 5 a.m…. No 1 a.m. dance parties on weeknights where your drunk roommate is screaming the hipster anthem of 2012, “We Are Young,” at the top of their lungs.”
For one thing, most boomers are not retired. We’re still a huge and hugely productive segment of the workforce. For another, most of us are not planning to quit any time soon. According to this year’s Employee Benefit Research Institute Retirement Confidence survey, just 23 percent of us expect to retire before 65, and 26 percent intend to work until 70 or beyond.
As for your besotted karaoke vignette, at least one boomer has been pleased as punch to stumble upon that very anthem, and she even wrote to me about the experience. In fact, boomers are big fans of “your” music (even though it’s not as good as ours).
Fact v. Perception
I hate to split hairs, but there’s a world of difference between boomers and senior citizens — about the same size chasm as what separates you from your parents. So when you say, “This is where living with a senior citizen has its advantages,” you are more likely talking about your grandparents than your parents. And we and all our tattooed, pot-smoking anthem-wailing compatriots will thank you to remember that in the future.
Regarding all those references to our “fiscal responsibility,” “two-car garage," “enjoying [our] pension in Tampa” and “60-inch TV,” you might want to read up on the statistics. A good place to start is that aforementioned Retirement Confidence survey, which found, among other depressing facts, that 47 percent of workers 45 and older said they have less than $25,000 in savings and investments, excluding their homes. Nearly half (49 percent) are not confident about being able to afford a comfortable retirement, the highest level in the survey's history. Plus, many boomers are unemployed, and it takes a 55-year-old worker almost a year to land a job after losing one, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
I’d love to offer you a little inspiration — among your own cohort. In your piece, you say, “Twenty-somethings, make no mistake: Find a baby boomer/parent/roommate and hold on tight. Our post-college years were greeted by the most dismal economy in decades, and the job market has us trapped working as underemployed gophers — stuffing envelopes, running errands and crying at the post office.” But Glamour is just one of the smart magazines that regularly salutes successful young people who are making a difference. Check out their current feature "The Top 35 Fashion Insiders Under 35."
But Ms. Cain, I am not upset. In fact, it may be our generation who gets the last laugh. According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70 percent of Americans over 65 will need long-term care during their lifetime. Who are the most likely candidates to have to take care of us? You guessed it: our millennial roomies.